The legal team of the All progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State has accused the Resident Electoral Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Mr Mike Igini of colluding with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to deny the party access to electoral materials as ordered by the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal.
Chairman of The Election Petition Tribunal, Justice W.O. Akanbi had on April 2 granted the Petitioner and Applicant, Senator Godswill Akpabio and his agents and forensic experts to inspect and copy all electoral materials used for the conduct of the election into Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District.
However, we learnt that on the instruction of Igini, Akwa Ibom INEC has consistently flouted the order and has refused the agents of Senator Akpabio and forensic experts access to the election material. INEC has been engaging in a hide-and-seek game.
A letter from Barrister Patrick Umoh, a lawyer in the legal team of Senator Akpabio to Mr Igini reveals the frustration the team has faced in making INEC to obey the court order and allow them access to inspect the election materials.
“We also wish to inform you that we had earlier reported for the said inspection on Thursday, the 11thday of April, 2019, Friday, 12thApril, 2019 and Monday, 15thApril, 2019, but our efforts to have access to the materials and inspect same did not yield any positive result,” Barrister Umoh said.
It was gathered that the hide-and-seek by Igini may have been to tip off the PDP and give them sufficient time to oppose the move for the inspection of the election materials by forensic experts hired by Senator Akpabio.
In a curious twist however, INEC is said to have colluded with PDP and advised the party to file a motion on April 16thwhich they cited as the reason they couldn’t allow the inspection of the materials as ordered by the court. Analysts believe the hide-and-seek by INEC was to give the PDP enough time to file the motion.
A legal analyst, Comrade Frederick Bassey has argued that it was wrong for INEC to have waited for the PDP to file a motion on April 16 and cite this as the reason it could not obey a lawful order of court given since April 2. In any case, he said a mere filing of motion on notice was not sufficient to displace a subsisting court order which had been served on INEC.
Comrade Bassey accused INEC REC of partisanship and collusion with the PDP. “Before the election when the APC accused Igini of partisanship and bias, I thought it was a case of wolf crying. But by his recent actions to the extent of disobeying court orders confirms the allegation that he may have been compromised,” he said.
Efforts to reach Mr Igini for his reaction proved abortive. At the Commission's office in Uyo, he was said to have travelled to Abuja when our reporter visited. He did not also respond to calls to his number.